Biden prepares for inauguration on Trump's last full day in office

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT) January 20, 2021
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1:16 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden announces creation of White House Gender Policy Council

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

The transition announced on Tuesday that the Biden administration will have a White House Gender Policy Council, created specifically to "guide and coordinate government policy that impacts women and girls." 

The council mirrors to some extent the aims of the White House Council on Women and Girls, formed under former President Barack Obama, which was later disbanded under the Trump administration. 

The White House Gender Policy Council will be co-chaired by TIME'S UP officer Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso, the incoming chief of staff to future first lady Jill Biden. 

1:14 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Trump agonizing over whether to give former chief strategist a pardon, source says

From CNN's Jim Acosta

A source close to discussions said President Trump has spent a lot of time agonizing over whether to give his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a pardon.

This source said Trump felt Bannon was one of the few high-profile conservatives still defending the President until the very end.

"That's in his head," the source said, another sign that Trump and Bannon have more than patched up their relationship.

The President is expected to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the matter. It will be a major batch of clemency actions that includes white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but – as of now – is not expected to include Trump himself.

1:16 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

GOP senator says it's critical to move quickly on key Biden nomination

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Hazel Mang 

Sen. Rob Portman speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Rob Portman speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, said he thinks it’s critical Congress expedited the Homeland Security secretary confirmation hearing "because the job is so important.. we have so many threats right now internal and external so I'm glad we were able to get started."

On the Senate impeachment trial, Portman said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen but said, "typically with impeachment that's all you can do, you know, during that period of time."

1:19 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Pelosi says focus is on inauguration right now when asked about impeachment timing

From CNN's Annie Grayer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on January 15, in Washington, DC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on January 15, in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her focus was on the inauguration when asked when the article of impeachment against President Trump would be sent over to the Senate.

“We’re doing the inauguration now,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The Pool reports that Pelosi then headed into Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s corridor.

1:03 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Democratic senator says he expects bipartisan support in DNI nomination process

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Hazel Mang

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, weighed in on concerns about President-elect Joe Biden taking over without filled top intelligence positions.

He said he does not think the nomination process for the director of National Intelligence position will be slow-rolled, and expects bipartisan support. 

“I think clearly this has been a difficult transition. Unwillingness of the current White House to cooperate early on, challenges with Covid challenges post Jan. 6. But... I think my colleagues, at least on this committee... I don’t think they will slow roll this,” Warner said speaking about the DNI position after Avril Haines’ nomination hearing this afternoon.

The Virginia Democrat continued, “I think we'll want to try to maintain that bipartisan affording of making sure that President Biden has his team in place. As Chairman Rubio said our bad guys are not going to take time off just because we've got a transition and the threats that exist today will exist tomorrow as well and we need a team in place.”

He also said he “clearly” thinks President Trump’s comments incited the Capitol Hill riot and there is “plenty of evidence” available. But he will wait to hear the arguments in the trial before saying whether or not he would vote to acquit or convict the President.

“I want to listen to the presentation but I clearly think that the President’s comments inciting the insurrectionists, the value to our adversaries, the value to Vladimir Putin…I think there’s plenty of evidence.”

1:10 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Schumer says Senate will be in session after inauguration and he hopes to confirm Biden's Cabinet quickly

From CNN's Clare Foran

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on January 6.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on January 6. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer excoriated President Trump for inciting the Capitol attack and said he is looking forward to President-elect Joe Biden being sworn in tomorrow.

He said the Senate will be in session right after the inauguration, and that he hopes to confirm key administration officials quickly. 

Five of Biden's Cabinet nominees are facing Senate panels today in the first step of the confirmation process.

“The Senate will be in session tomorrow after the conclusion of the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States. With cooperation we can confirm key national security nominees at State, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and the Intelligence Community,” he said after saying that Biden needs to have key officials in place on day one of his administration.

“The way the Senate works it will take cooperation from our Republican colleagues to swiftly confirm these highly qualified national security officials, but make no mistake the Senate will move quickly to consider and confirm President Biden’s Cabinet," Schumer continued.

On the inauguration, Schumer said, “The country will turn the page on the most chaotic and divisive presidency that can ever be remembered.”

“Rioters, insurrectionists, white supremacists and domestic terrorist tried to prevent the transfer of power. They were incited by none other than the President of the United States. They have failed.” He went on to say, “despite what these evil terrorists tried to do, the peaceful passing of the torch will take place tomorrow as it has for generations.”

Schumer said that in the weeks to come, the Senate must accomplish “three essential items”: “A second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the confirmation of President Biden’s cabinet and other key officials and legislation to provide much-needed, almost desperately needed Covid relief.”

On Trump’s impeachment trial, Schumer said, “We need to set a precedent that the severest offense ever committed by a President will be met by the severest remedy provided by the Constitution. Impeachment and conviction by this chamber as well as disbarment from future office.”

12:49 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Current and former officials who've been critical of Trump have been invited to his send-off

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak, and Kate Bennett

Dozens of current and former administration officials have been invited to President Trump's farewell ceremony tomorrow, including those who have been extremely critical of Trump since leaving the White House.

Trump's former chief of staff John Kelly recently told CNN's Jake Tapper he'd vote to remove Trump from office if he could — yet he was still invited to the event.

So was Don McGahn, the former White House counsel who angered Trump by sitting down with Robert Mueller's team for hours. Other former senior aides who have maintained good relationships with Trump, like his first chief of staff Reince Priebus, were also invited but aren't expected to attend. Both Kelly and McGahn won't be attending, CNN reported earlier today.

Some are choosing not to go because attendees must arrive by 6 a.m. ET, while others have said they are staying away because the President is politically toxic right now given his role in inciting a mob that attacked the US Capitol.

The invitation was not limited to senior staff. Even junior aides who never personally interacted with Trump were also invited, according to a source familiar, in what appears to be an attempt to bulk up the guest list.

The White House declined to comment on the invitation process.

12:49 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

A county commissioner from New Mexico threatened to bring guns in car to Biden inauguration

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

A county commissioner from New Mexico who leads a "Cowboys for Trump" group should stay in jail as he awaits trial, according to prosecutors.

The Justice Department argues in a new court filing that the man, Couy Griffin, had threatened to return to the Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration with a rifle and a revolver in his car, prosecutors say.

They argue he has "disdain" for legal authority and could flee from his court proceedings.

Prosecutors said Griffin, a 47-year-old former western performer for Disney in Paris, had posted on social media negatively about Democrats and Black football players, and a Mescalero Apache Tribe had banned him from entering their lands.

Leading up to Inauguration Day, his group Cowboys for Trump had planned to protest at the New Mexico State Capitol, and the building was closed and secured.

Griffin had spoken at a county commission meeting in New Mexico about his actions in the Jan. 6 siege, saying "you tell a million Trump supporters that ... pretty soon that crowd just pushed through. I wasn't anywhere in the front of it, I was in the back," court documents filed on Monday said. 

1:01 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

McConnell says Capitol riot mob "provoked" by Trump, and claims inauguration will be "safe and successful"

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday that “the mob” that attacked the Capitol “was fed lies.”

“They were provoked by the President and other powerful people,” McConnell said.

“They tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like,” he added. “But we pressed on.”

McConnell said the Senate certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and that he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in tomorrow.

“We’ll have a safe and successful inaugural right here on the very front of the Capitol,” he said.

The Senate Republican leader said Congress would turn to work for the American people, and asserted that no party has a broad mandate after the 2020 elections.

“Certainly November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change,” said McConnell. “Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House and a presidential candidate who said he’d represent everyone.”

“So our marching orders from the American people are clear,” said McConnell. “We’re to have a robust discussion and seek common ground. We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can, and check and balance one another, respectfully, where we must.”

“Through all this we must always keep in mind that we're all Americans,” he added. “We all love this country. And we're all in this together.”

McConnell’s comments came as the Senate prepares to hold an impeachment trial over the House’s charge of “incitement of insurrection" against Trump.

He said on Tuesday that the Senate has received a message from the House that Trump has been impeached but noted that the House has not yet transmitted the article to the Senate.